Wednesday 12 June 2024

A Belated April Review.

April started with the Easter weekend. I know technically Good Friday was March, but I’ll start there.

Himself and I had a very lazy start then went out for a walk, we took a hip flask in his case and a mini bottle of prosecco in mine, which we raised to my Dad as we sat and looked at one of my favourite views. 


On the Saturday I took advantage of finally having some nice weather and started to re-pot and rearrange my mobile garden (so all the plants I moved here with me.) I also did some weeding and tidying up at the front of the house.

Being a big fan of ice cream, I was delighted to find we have an ice cream van that stops near this house. When I heard it go past, I took the opportunity to nip down the road and buy us both a 99 as I happened to have a fiver in my pocket! I can’t remember the last I had one, so it was a lovely treat.

 

The following week I was due to have my routine mammogram on the Thursday and go out for lunch with two old friends on the Sunday Friends I had sort of lost touch with over the years but we had recently reconnected. 

The NHS mobile breast screening unit comes to town every 3 years and takes up residence in the local leisure centre carpark for 3-4 months and offers screening to all women over the age of 50 and those under 50 who are high risk. Well one of these friends of mine had been for her scan 3 weeks before me. Within 4 days they had rung her and booked her in for further tests at the hospital and much to her shock and horror she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is the 4th person I know this year being treated for breast cancer, thankfully in her case it was incredibly early and contained.

In the 2 months since her diagnosis, she has had surgery and is now recovering before starting safeguarding treatment. God bless our NHS and long may they remain (despite this damn government’s best efforts!)

I would say to anyone reading this who gets their call, there is no need to be embarrassed, they have seen it all before a million times. Yes it’s bloody uncomfortable, but only for a mere moment and it might just save your life. So go and get screened! I am very grateful to say my results were clear.

 

On the 19th April I had the day off work to meet Charlotte in London for the Biba exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum. 

I caught the train to London and was due to meet Charlotte in a café near the museum which in itself was risky. Normally we meet at Paddington, from where I just follow her because she grew up in London so therefore knows where she is at. 

I was slightly thrown by the TFL website trying to send me via the Elizabeth line and in the end plumped for what I knew (Bakerloo/Jubilee line) and got there unscathed!

We were so busy chatting we managed to miss our ticketed entry by 10 minutes! Thankfully they still let us in when we dashed across the road. 


The exhibition was extremely busy, we figured it would be given how full the café had been with ladies of a certain age.

Having said that we were still able to get around and didn’t have to wait too long to get near enough to read the information cards or get a closer view of certain outfits. 



If I had one disappointment it was that it was a very small exhibition, I know they have many more examples in their collection so I would have loved to have seen more. Charlotte and I did recognise several outfits courtesy of our fashion-conscious mothers. Indeed, Charlotte can remember being taken to Biba by hers on several occasions.  


As an exhibition it certainly gave me food for thought, you couldn’t help but see the inevitable crash and burn coming when you saw just how quickly the company expanded. It was also the rather sobering to realise Biba was the precursor to our current horrifying fast fashion industry, with Barbara Hulanicki insisting that new ranges came out weekly, and that they actively encouraged people to buy a new outfit every week to go out in. 

An ethos she seemed to subscribe to herself. There is only one item in the exhibition that belongs to Barbara herself, an absolutely gorgeous leopard print coat it must be said. 

The rest she says she threw out, indeed when she sold the company, apparently she threw all her Biba clothes in the bin and ‘moved on’ as she put it.


I also really disliked the fact she would only make the clothes in tiny sizes, indeed there was only one size at first which was a small!

The arrival of the huge Biba department store saw her reluctantly give in to pressure and stock a range of dress sizes. They finally stocked sizes 8-12 which is hardly wide ranging. As someone who has always been tall, and whose size has been anything from a 10 to an 18, and everything in between, I bloody hate with a passion designers who think anyone over 5ft 2 and a size 0 are a freak.   

 

Having seen our fill, we headed out with the plan of grabbing lunch at Borough Market. Only to find it absolutely pouring with rain so instead we decamped to a nearby pub for something to eat and drink somewhere warm and dry. 

After a lengthy lunch we walked along the river, over Westminster bridge and all the way to Ole & Steen at Piccadilly for a drink and slices of their to die for cinnamon social. If you have never tried it and love cinnamon, I strongly recommend it if you are ever near an Ole & Steen!

Again, we were so engrossed in talking that Charlotte suddenly realised her train was leaving in 10 minutes and there was no way she would make it! Thankfully, they let her on the next one. 

This also meant I was stuck getting home too, as I had an off-peak ticket. Usually this means you can catch one slow train an hour but for some reason even this slow train said no off-peak tickets. Meaning I either upgraded or waited 2 hours!?!  In the end I thought I’d take a punt and jumped on it, figuring if they came and checked the tickets then if I had to upgrade I had to upgrade. Luckily for me no one did come round checking tickets.

 

That Sunday I was up bright and early (for a Sunday) and off to London with my sister in law Caron, her friend Michelle, and Michelle’s friend Carla for Abba Voyage. To say I was excited was an understatement! Ever since I was allowed to stay up late and watch them win Eurovision in 1973, I have been a huge Abba fan, something that never diminished even when I discovered my later love for Heavy Metal. In fact, as I was an uncool person anyway, I had no qualms about admitting I loved Abba and being mocked for it by my other Metal loving friends back in the day.

This was a (very) early birthday present from my brother and Caron to me. Carla was also taking Michelle for her birthday, though they were in the seated area whilst Caron and I were standing. We had tickets for the lunchtime concert and got to Stratford underground with enough time to take a slow wander to the Abba Arena. There is a closer station at Pudding Lane which would involve a change from underground to DLR. 


We agreed a meeting place and joined our respective queues. It was a slick process, and we were through security very quickly with time to stop at the bar for a glass of prosecco and bottle of water to take in with us. The later at £6 was typically priced for a gig but came in a branded reuseable metal bottle so got a big tick from me.

The atmosphere once we were in the arena was just incredible and the age range of the audience was vast, I had read an article saying Abba are one of the few multi-generational bands with fans from my age bracket, our parents and also our children, but then due to the success of Mama Mia on stage and later on screen so many years after their music career had ended a whole load of later generations also know their music. Sure enough, I saw a range from octogenarians in sequins and stars, right down to some very excited mini dancing queens resplendent in feather boas.

I have had quite a few people say to me they would never go because who wants to see holographic avatars instead of real people, and I will admit I was wondering how real it would look. The show is so cleverly done though, mixing a live band and backing singers, with an incredible light show you genuinely forget at times it’s not all real people. I think it really helps that the band re-recorded the songs, so they aren’t just the produced album tracks.

The avatars also chat between songs and have instrumental interludes when they change costume. It’s just all incredibly clever and I properly welled up when The Winner Takes it All came on.

In short, it’s just so joyous and uplifting with everyone singing and dancing you would be hard pressed to get a better endorphin hit. I absolutely loved every minute of it.

 

We met up with Michelle and Carla outside where we asked someone to take our picture

Before deciding to try the aftershow party which is not to be missed apparently. 


A work colleague was very excited to hear I’d gone and was eager to know who the DJ was. Apparently they have many famous DJ’s doing a session, but as I don’t listen to the radio unfortunately I had no clue who the guy was!

It was hilarious, and a great mix of Abba and other 70’s and 80’s disco classics, I danced non-stop for nearly 2 hours. 

Again, a real mix of age ranges were there I danced with some teenage girls and at one point a whole family from great grandmother down to great grandson. It was just so joyful; I love dancing but I’m absolutely terrible at it, but no one judged and you could just have a great time without worrying.

 

Finally, it was time to go and find some food so we headed back towards Stratford where we found a pub doing all day Sunday lunches though I went with the fish and chips. Then it was back home for a couple of hours chilling before bed.

 

The following Friday I was out for dinner with Soo and Melissa, I was very happy when Himself got in and I could head off and leave him to deal with the plumber who was making alarming hammering noises upstairs. We had been having on going issues with the toilet upstairs since we moved in, thank the lord this house has more than one toilet because it has broken twice. The first time the plumber came out and said there was nothing wrong with it but one of the parts was just a bit old and it was fine if you pressed the flush VERY firmly! The agency got him to change the old part anyway, and we would just had to put up with the flush.

The second time it just wouldn’t stop running so we had to take the panel off (it’s got a built-in unit) and turn the water supply to it off.  That time he got it working again but admitted that actually, the inlet pipe was cracked, which he hadn’t spotted that the first time he’d been round. He then announced that the whole cistern needed replacing and would send the agency a quote. About 2 months later he suddenly rang and said could he come round and fix it. Would you believe about 2 weeks after the cistern was replaced it broke again!?! This time he blamed one of the new parts failing, we shall see how that replacement goes…

 

Anyway, back to dinner. Soo, Melissa and I had originally arranged to meet in Oxford, but when Melissa heard I was staying over at Soo’s that night because we had a bluebell walk planned for the next day, she suggested we go out in Soo’s or around village, it’s also much easier for her to get to as she was working from home that day.

Soo met me off the bus and we had a cup of tea and a catch up before heading out to the lovely Talbot Pub once Melissa arrived. The food was amazing, absolutely delicious and I’d definitely recommend it. Too full for pudding, we split the bill and waddled back to another pub near the bus stop for more beer and chat before seeing Melissa onto her bus home. A fab evening and a long overdue catch up.

 

The next day Soo and I got up had breakfast before walking to Wytham Woods. The day was overcast but thankfully the rain had stopped, though it was very wet under foot and my poor walking boots were soaked through by the time I got home. I grew up near some bluebell woods and it’s one of my favourite sights and smells. It’s been many years since I was last in one and I was just craving that solace for my soul. Wytham did not disappoint.

They are ancient woodlands and a site of special scientific interest which have been owned and maintained by the University of Oxford since 1942. The University have been doing continuous ecological research there since the 1940’s and the woods are very carefully maintained; you can’t walk in the woods without a permit and dogs are banned. 

Because the day was pretty miserable there weren’t many people about so we got to really enjoy the habitat and the gorgeous bluebells pretty much undisturbed. I took about a million pictures it was utter bliss.


A hint of what was to come...





Our route took us down towards Oxford, joining at the top of the Botley Road. We stopped off for a sandwich in a café in Botley and then tea and a shared peanut butter brownie before I headed to the station and home.


I did also end April by finally sorting out my brooch storage. The glass dishes I was usuing were too full for comfort with my ever growing Erstwilder collection if nothing else. 

I had aquired a set of drawers that were used to store coins before I left the Bodleian. I had been using them to store fabric and haberdashery bits. 




I cleared out the drawers lined them and had a blissful time arranging!


I will try and be back very soon with my May round up before it is July!




  

Tuesday 14 May 2024

March Round Up Part Two.

 March part 2! Finally!!

I realise I managed to forget to mention in my last post we had a dinner for incoming students in the amazing setting of the Natural History Museum in Oxford. What better way to convince someone to come to our programme? 


I
must admit, lovely as it was to be able to wander at will around the museum out of hours and with a glass of prosecco in hand, I do find it somewhat unnerving having food and drink near priceless exhibits!


How often do you get to eat with a dinosuar looming over you?


Alongside everything else at work, we basically had 3 Fridays in a row where we also had something on in the evening we had to attend, well I say had to, I managed to miss out on the last one by booking some holiday.

 

I had seen the item on the national news and read the article on the BBC website about Bagpuss turning 50 and in it they mentioned an exhibition around him in a museum in Canterbury.

For those who don’t know Bagpuss is the main character from a stop animation children’s television programme form the 1970’s. In a nutshell he is a toy cat who lives in a shop window and his owner Emily brings him gifts, usually random lost or broken things she finds whilst out walking, she then recites a special rhyme;

 

Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss Old fat furry cat-puss. Wake up and look at this thing that I bring. Wake up, be bright. Be golden and light. Bagpuss, Oh hear what I sing. 

 

This wakes Bagpuss and once he is awake, all his friends wake up too. They look at the object try to decide what it is, then usually Bagpuss tells a magical story at the end of which the item is restored to it’s full glory.

I was enchanted with this series as a small child and have basically adored Bagpuss ever since. I still have the Bagpuss backpack my parents bought me, and various other Bagpi (as Himself calls them) that friends and family have given me over the years, so as you can imagine the chance to not only go to an exhibition about the show,  but see the real fat furry cat-puss in the flesh so to speak, was not something I was going to miss!

                                                                          Bagpi!


It’s been 2 years since Himself and last went to the Isle of Thanet in Kent, so I floated the idea of combining a trip down to see friends with a visit to the exhibition. Thankfully, he was more than happy, so I quickly checked the lovely B&B in Broadstairs we stayed in last time. They had a room free, without breakfast, but at a great price so I booked it ASAP.

Next, I messaged my friend Kay to see if and when she was about. She could do the Thursday evening, so we planned the rest of our trip around that evening and when the museum was open. The stars aligned there as the museum would be open on the Friday and the weather that day was due to be horrible that day, so we figured a trip to Canterbury and being inside was a good plan. Himself also contacted his old boss Pete, who now lives just outside Canterbury to see if he was free the Friday evening to meet us for a drink. 

 

Monday & Tuesday were long days taken up with getting as much work done as I could before we headed off on the Wednesday. 


We had a good journey and arrived at the B&B at about 2pm. As check in wasn’t due until 4pm I had emailed to ask if we could come earlier, even if it was just to drop off bags and come back after 4pm to check in properly. I hadn’t heard back so we took a punt anyway. We were met by a slightly flustered young man who said we could check in but couldn’t find the room key, after a fruitless search he ended up giving us the housekeeping room key. We went up, unpacked and then headed into town and straight to Morelli’s for an ice cream. First opening in 1932, and with it’s slightly kitsch 30’s décor unchanged, it is an absolute icon and famous not just for delicious ice cream but also for coffee.  It was lovely to see it busy and buzzing even on a mid-week afternoon.

The View from outside our B&B


We had a gentle mooch around the town to see what had changed before heading back to our room to chill before changing for dinner. I had brought my work mobile with me because when I set up my booking.com account years ago I had done it from my work email address. I’m not quite sure why I looked at my work emails but I saw I had had a frantic message from the B&B owner, which my colleague Hazel had also forwarded to me via whatsapp, as he had sent it on to the generic work email address after getting my out of office. 

Something to do with the room key and could we come back ASAP as he needed to go out that evening. Clearly, he hadn’t thought to try knocking on the room door as we had been in the room the whole time! 

I quickly jogged down the stairs in my socks, not even stop to put my shoes back on, and made him jump out of his skin. It turned out that they had a regular guest who ‘always booked room 8.’ To the point she had actually taken the room key home with her as she considered it ‘her room’ which was why the other guy hadn’t been able to find it when we arrived. 

This guest was also there and clearly extremely put out. I briefly considered offering to swap rooms with her, but she was so hostile and rude, I thought fuck you then, and stood my ground. With great reluctance she went and fetched the room key from her car whilst I had a chat with the owner and petted his dogs. Once I had the correct key I handed the spare over and headed back upstairs.


We had a table booked at our favourite restaurant Posillipo Pizzeria, a wonderful family run Italian that has been in Broadstairs for 30 years. I literally could not choose what to have but in the end settled for gnocchi with gorgonzola which was to die for. The restaurant was packed full but we weren’t rushed and the manager even brought us a free glass of limoncello to end the meal. I’m not a fan so Himself got to neck two!

From there we went to the quirky Chapel pub. I mentioned it in my post from 2 years ago here. It’s a very old tiny chapel that was converted into a bookshop. When the owner retired he just left it as was. Whoever bought it left most of the bookcases and many of the books in situ and just fitted a bar and some tables and benches. 

It was also busy with many games of chess being played but we managed to snag a tiny table and spent a pleasant couple of hours drinking beer for Himself and cider for me looking at books. We were having hysterics about the name of the author of a biography on Robert Redford called Minty Clinch. Himself sent a picture to his sister and it turns out his late mother who was a huge Robert Redford fan had had a copy of the book. We had to google the name and it turns out not only is that her real name (Araminta Clinch) she actually lives in a nearby village to us! Small world…

As we left the pub, we spotted the lighthouse was working, something I can’t recall ever seeing before. Even thought it was dark you could see this wall of white fog rolling in across the sea it was very atmospheric. Thankfully it had cleared by morning.

 

The next day we had a leisurely start as we didn’t have to go down for breakfast. Our schedule for the day was to walk the coast from Ramsgate to Margate so we caught the bus to Ramsgate with the plan of getting breakfast somewhere at the harbour before we started. 

There were a couple of cafes to choose from, so following lessons learnt over the years we plumped for the one that was busy with workmen, you can always trust them to go for the best breakfast!

Sure enough, Ship Shape Cafe lived up to our expectations, with a delicious full English for Himself, and as I’m not a fan of meat at breakfast and don’t eat sausages, a vegetarian breakfast for me. When they arrived, I gained his tomatoes & mushrooms and he got my veggie sausage in exchange (this is why we work as a couple.)
 I was also enchanted with their tiny nautical themed toilet, wishing I had taken my bag with me so I could have taken a picture in there.     

Replete with food we walked to the end of the jetty and started out walking apps.

The day was cloudy but not cold so perfect walking weather really. We walked past our B&B as we passed through Broadstairs but looking up at it from the beach. We also took a detour to Botany Bay as there are meant to be fossils there.

We found some shells and sea glass but sadly nothing prehistoric. 


As we got towards Margate there were clear signs of how violent the recent storms had been with this set of steps being completely buried in sand! 

It was sad to see the Winter Gardens and Lido looking so derelict (we actually met at the Lido all those years ago) 

I gather there may be some levelling up funding going to the Winter Gardens so fingers crossed it can become a vibrant venue once again.


 There was some amazing street art though. 

We finished our walk at the end of the jetty in Margate before decamping to Barnacles for a drink, the scene of many a date for us, and Himself’s parents’ favourite pub when they were both alive. From there we had a bit of a mooch before heading to the train station.


Once back at the B&B we both freshened up and caught the bus back to Ramsgate where we met my friend Kay in the huge Wetherspoons on the harbour. Himself stayed for a couple of pints before his friend Paul called to say he was outside waiting to pick him up. It was wonderful to catch up with Kay, we grabbed some dinner and had just finished eating when her partner Andy arrived. It was lovely to catch up with him in person as I haven't seen him before lockdown.


Once it was time to head off, they both walked me to the taxi office which turned out to be closed! 

I ended up having to google some firms and call for one instead, which some pissed bloke also waiting, refused to accept was mine not his, so I ended up having to call another! 

Finally in a taxi we picked up Himself enroute who was absolutely freezing having been standing waiting whilst all that drama happened.

 

Next morning was Friday and Bagpuss day. We called in at Tesco and bought some bits for breakfast which we ate on the train over to Canterbury. We headed straight to the museum The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. which is fairly small in museum terms, and was filled with school children. 


There was an interactive map for the Bagpuss trail you could buy, which involved finding clues and characters in the different galleries and collecting a stamp from the staff on duty in that room. I loved that it made the children goo to all the rooms and hopefully learn lots of different things whilst they searched for Gabriel or the Soup Dragon.


Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin who created Smallfilms that made Bagpuss and many other much loved children’s TV shows have donated a lot of their equipment and props to the museum, there is a small gallery space named after them for showing temporary exhibitions and this was where an exhibition about them and their work was running alongside the Bagpuss trail. They mostly used stop animation and it was fascinating to see how programmes were created, particularly the ingenuity, like adapting cameras with pieces of Meccano!  

For someone who grew up watching their programmes, to actually see The Clangers and of course Bagpuss himself, as in the actual one they filmed, it brought a tear to my eye.  

We did look in all the galleries. I particularly enjoyed the range of art work going right up to the present day with Banksy and Grayson Perry, 

and yes I may have treated myself in the gift shop!


I bought a tea towel and the tiny wheeled elephant on the left to add to my small collection of wooden elephants on wheels. 

 

By the time we left it was pouring with rain and we both wanted a drink and something to eat, and for me just a few quiet moments to just absorb all I had seen. 


I’d read an article that had mentioned this great café in Canterbury hidden behind a tiny doorway next to the Roman Museum that was tardis-like when you got inside and did great food. We found it and managed to secure a table in the big bay window on the second floor. The flatbread sandwiches were huge and delicious, mine was full of aubergine, humous and salad YUM! 

No room for a piece of cake afterwards even though they looked amazing.

 

My only other plan for the day was to see if Cosmo China was open, it had been closed on our last visit. It has a branch in London and Canterbury and features work by several of Peter Firmin’s daughters amongst others. 

It’s expensive, so I only planned to buy small jug to add to my collection. Only they had a Bagpuss range, I really wanted something but I couldn’t justify spending that much, so ended up choosing an eggcup. 

Luckily for me I noticed a basket of seconds, in there I found a Bagpuss and Clangers plate! Happy me.


(The Ivor the Engine mug came from the Museum shop.)


We spent the rest of the afternoon going in whatever shop took our fancy, I got a couple of bits in Siesta and some Cadfael books in Oxfam, some seasalt fudge in Roly’s and a bracelet in another charity shop. Tired and damp from the relentless rain we decamping to The Lady Luck our favourite pub in Canterbury for a restorative bottle of brown (Newcastle Brown Ale) or two. 


We had planned to go to this lovely Italian restaurant we had found on our last visit, but we were still too full from lunch, so instead just headed straight to the Wetherspoon’s nearest to the train station where we had arranged to meet Pete, Himself’s old boss and good friend. It was very busy, but we finally managed to find a table and had just sat down with our drinks when he arrived. Again, it was lovely to catch up with all his news and hear what his children have been up too. We ended up staying there all night and ordered some sharing plates to pick at.

 

The next day we again had a more leisurely start checking out at 10.30am. The saga of the ‘regular guest who always stays in room 8’ had one last fling when it turned out they had added her food to our bill! This took a bit of time to rectify but we got there in the end. Not withstanding that I would definitely stay there again.


It was a lovely morning and we were in no hurry so we walked along the seafront calling in at Morelli’s so Himself could buy some coffee to take home, and the local bakery to buy a loaf and some freshly baked hot cross buns that smelt too delicious too leave. We also grabbed a sandwich and drinks for the train home. What a wonderful much needed mini break it turned out to be.

 

I finished up the month with a trip to the dentist with my Mum for a check up then on to tea at a local garden centre where I managed to avoid buying any new plants.

Plus a trip to the cinema to see the latest Ghostbusters film. I have loved the 2 most recent ones so was very much up for this even though there was no real reason to make it, the story had ended well with the last one. Overall it was a bit of a mess, a bit too long but with some really great bits which redeemed it from being completely terrible.

 

So that was March and now I need to find time for April which was just as epic with the Biba exhibition and the highlight of it all Abba Voyage! More anon.